February 26, 2019
Grace CooperIn this digital age, social media presence has become a critical component to building a brand. Whether you're starting a small business or running a Congressional office, chances are you're on social media. In fact, according to Quorum, members of Congress posted from official social accounts over 500,000 times in 2018. If you combine this with Pew Research Center's finding that about half of Americans have engaged in civil or social activism via social media (as of 2018), it's easy to see how platforms such as Twitter or Facebook can be tools for political change.
Here's what you need to know about the State of the Union.
January 30, 2019
November 13, 2018
Thanks to input from our valued users on Capitol Hill and federal, state, and local government agencies all around the country, IQ is now faster, more robust, and more powerful than ever before. But we're not done yet. Our team constantly evaluates performance and monitors industry trends to make sure the #1 CRM on Capitol Hill keeps getting better. Keep reading to learn about some of the major enhancements we've already made this year plus updates and new features to look forward to in the coming weeks and beyond!
Q2 2018: IQ Gets Faster
We optimized IQ for the House Cloud resulting in increased performance capacity and increases in speed of up to 30%. Updates for even faster performance are on the way! Watch this short video to see how House offices use IQ to be more efficient and effective in their work with the public.
Q4 2018: Collaborate with Colleagues
Just like Google Docs and other online collaboration tools, IQ now allows multiple users to collaborate and co-edit form letters in real time, directly within IQ. Save time, improve accuracy and get approval faster by using this new IQ function.
Q4 2018: eNewsletter Overhaul
The overhauled eNewsletter tool in IQ makes it easier to produce and send high impact, high quality email content to your constituents. Compelling visuals and professional quality layouts in your outgoing email efforts are just a few clicks away. No design experience required.
Q1 2019: Email Automation
New email automation functionality in IQ will allow you to build "smart" email campaigns that automatically optimize your outreach based on performance metrics and constituent engagement. This game-changing new feature will dramatically change the way you can communicate to the public using IQ.
Q1 2019: New Mapping Interface
IQ users will have the ability to overlay critical issue and message data with a new mapping interface that displays boundaries for states, Congressional districts and counties. This new feature gives frontline staff and executive management new insights on the public from a detailed geographic standpoint for data driven decision making.
2019: Machine Learning
Our developers are hard at work building an innovative machine learning platform for IQ that will make recommendations for categorizing and responding to incoming messages. Planned for release some time in 2019, machine learning in IQ will save staffers even more time and free them up for other priorities and goals.
To learn more about how IQ has evolved and what's to come, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 6, 2018
One of the most highly-anticipated and bitterly contested midterm elections is today. Here are a few observations as we wait for results:
With over 40 million Americans having cast early ballots in 2018, early turnout and mail ballot counts have smashed previous years' figures. In fact, early voting is up almost 45% over the 2014 midterm election. In Texas and Nevada, early voting has eclipsed total voter turnout in 2014. So what does it all mean? Some pollsters suggest that the dramatic jump in early votes could signal a larger than expected "blue wave". Others data scientists warn against making such predictions and don't use early voting figures at all in their projections.
The year of the woman
A record 53 women ran for Senate in 2018 and 476 women ran for office in the House. Twenty two of the 53 running for Senate won party nominations and 235 women won their House primaries. That makes a total of 257 women on ballots today for service in the 116th Congress. And let's not forget about the power female voters hold this year. Women aged 18-44 are expected to be a critical demographic in dozens of races around the country. Four in ten women in that age bracket saying they are "more enthusiastic" about voting this year than any previous election. Polling shows that twice as many women aged 18-44 identify as Democrats versus Republicans so the GOP has its work cut out to capture this key voter group today.
Big names on the stump
If you weren't aware of the massive implications of today's midterms, just take a look at who's been on the campaign trail. National figures including President Trump, former President Obama and former VP Joe Biden have inserted themselves into races across the country with intensity that has not historically been seen in midterm elections. President Trump alone has hit the campaign trail hard, recently undertaking several grueling multi-stop travel days for campaign rallies. For the Democrats, Joe Biden has been spotted knocking on doors and helping with canvassing efforts.
Turnout, turnout, turnout
Every political novice knows that turnout is always critical to victory but seasoned observers have noticed a trend that may be encouraging to Democrats in 2018. In every special election in both 2017 and 2018, Democrats have increased their turnout compared to relative turnout increase for Republicans. Sign of a blue wave? Some pollsters say yes. But not so fast. Donald Trump has mostly managed to dominate the headlines, even without his name on the ballot today. Most political observers see turnout driven by enthusiasm for—and against the President. Will President Trump's star power and economic successes help the GOP hold their majorities? We'll know soon enough!
Leidos Digital Solution, Inc. is the leading provider of IT Services and Consulting to government offices on Capitol Hill plus federal, state and local government agencies around the country.
July 23, 2018
As wild as the 2016 presidential election and the preceding campaigns were, it’s hard to believe that the 2018 midterm elections are practically upon us. And yet, nearly half of primary elections have already taken place. So what’s in store for America in November? Here we’ll examine the trends we’ve seen so far from the primary elections.
Of the 194 Democratic seats in the House, 185 of those are considered safe. Of the 236 Republican seats in the House, 174 are believed to go safely back into GOP hands.
Retirements will play a major role in 2018. There are 32 Members of the House of Representatives retiring this year including the most high profile Member of all, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. Add 14 resignations in the House and you’ve got nearly 50 seats up for grabs. On the Senate side, only 3 retirements have been announced on top of 3 resignations. The death of Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York in March leaves an additional vacancy in the House.
Of the hundreds of Congressional races scheduled for November, dozens are considered competitive races according to ratings watchers. Of the competitive races, 17 are likely to lean Democratic, 20 are considered tossups, and 57 are likely to lean Republican.
The anti-establishment wave felt during the 2016 elections continues, though perhaps not as dramatically. For progressives, the biggest shakeup came during Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory against 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District primary. Far left candidates also won two gubernatorial primaries: Ben Jealous in Maryland and Rep. Jared Polis in Colorado.
Another shocking upset came from North Carolina’s 9th District GOP primary where three-term incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger was defeated by newcomer Mark Harris of Charlotte, NC. In a district once considered solidly Republican, the GOP nominee will face off against Charlotte Democrat and former marine Dan McCready in an election now considered a “toss up” by many analysts. Mark Harris, who considers himself a populist in the mold of President Donald Trump, mobilized evangelical and conservative voters.
Women are running, and winning, in larger numbers than ever before. Of all the candidates running in the midterms nearly 600 are women. 469 female candidates for seats in the House, 53 for the Senate, and 73 women are running for governorships. More than half of these candidates have already made it through their primaries, and so far, more women have won than lost.
These are just a few of the key takeaways from the primary season so far, but it looks like it’s shaping up to be another interesting fall and a wild November.
June 29, 2018
More than half of primary elections have taken place in states across the country ending blackout periods for many Members of Congress. However, even as many Members are coming out of blackout periods, time is quickly running out before blackouts begin again on August 8th. Here are a few tips for maximizing your communication efforts during this open period of time.
Live stream town hall events
One great way to connect and engage with your constituents is through town halls, including virtual town halls. Virtual town hall services, such as Access Live, are an easy, scalable solution for reaching even large and diverse districts and communities. Studies have shown that a single virtual town hall event can increase approval ratings on a specific issue by as much as 38%. Access Live allows you to dial out to your constituents directly, stream live to your website and social media networks, and interact with your audience through live polling and taking questions directly from callers. With live support from the IQ and Broadnet teams, and the ability to sync your data directly into your CRM, Access Live events are the easiest virtual town hall solution on the market and are ideal for reaching your community before blackouts begin again. We recommend holding one virtual town hall per week every week until the next blackout begins on August 8th.
It might seem obvious, but one of the easiest and effective ways to reach your constituents is through email outreach. Now is a great time to let your constituents know about the biggest issues you’ve worked on this term, about the issues that you are committed to continuing to pursue, and to collect feedback from your district on how you’ve been doing so far. Communication shouldn’t be a one way street. Be sure to include surveys, embed rich content, and ask for feedback in your outreaches.
Optimize website content
Now is a great time to take a critical eye to your website and make sure the content is as good as it should be. If you’re reaching out to your constituents via the two steps above, you will likely see an increase in traffic to your website. You’ll want to be sure you’re putting your best foot forward in representing the work you and your office are doing to promote the interests of your constituency.
Clean up your data
The pre-election blackout will be here before you know it and your outreach needs to land. Clean up your data now and make sure your messaging makes it to your constituents’ inboxes. Work on expanding your email subscriptions through email marketing and virtual town halls so that when blackouts hit, you will still be able to reach a large segment of your district.
These next six weeks will be critical in getting in front of your constituents before blackouts begin again. To speak with a sales representative about sending out email communications or planning your next Access Live virtual town hall event, email email@example.com or call us at 703-206-0030.
As the provider of the leading CRM in the public sector, the Leidos DSI team deals with many Federal and state agencies who are struggling to efficiently manage their FOIA and public information request (PIR) processes. For agencies who may be looking to improve their FOIA management and customer service, here are five tips that we think will help your organization improve and simplify FOIA request management.
Proactive data posts
One way to help ease the burden of public information requests on your agency is to proactively publish unclassified materials that may be of interest to the public. One great example of this was the CIA’s decision in 2017 to publish thousands of recently de-classified files from the Kennedy assassination. Once they decided to de-classify the material, they may have been inundated with FOIA requests from journalists or citizens wanting to review the materials, but proactively making the documents available online made it accessible to the public without a FOIA request. Committing to proactive posts—particularly of files that may be of special interest to the public—ultimately results in a constantly growing library of documents available to the public online and can save your agency valuable time and staff resources that otherwise would be tied up in information requests.
Modern IT Tools
Making the request process simpler for both the requestor and your staff can also go a long way in saving your agency’s finite resources. There are many software solutions available that can help streamline and automate the request tracking, payment collecting and overall back and forth involved in processing and filling FOIA and PIR requests. However, even with these resources available, there are still many state and local agencies that are tracking and managing information requests in spreadsheets. Upgrading to a system that can take a request through your agency’s website, auto-assign it to a staff member, estimate and collect fees and provide a reference number to the agency and the requestor makes a huge difference in the efficiency and quality of the experience for the requestor and the organization. If you are interested in learning more about how software solutions can automate this process for you, take a demo of Intranet Quorum.
Another big key to improving the FOIA process for both agency staff and the public is committing to disciplined communication. What this means is having a set of standards for communicating with the public about their requests and making sure those standards are consistently applied across your organization. Something as simple as acknowledging an incoming request when it’s received can make a big difference in the requester’s experience so implementing agency-wide communication guidelines can ensure each requestor has a positive experience. If your agency is using a modern tracking system, arming a requestor with their request’s tracking number and the ability to check in and see live status updates can eliminate many follow up communications and help ease the mind of an anxious reporter or other member of the public. Additionally, if you are communicating back and forth, it’s a best practice to record all of your communications in one repository where it can be referenced along with the request itself.
The spirit of the Freedom of Information Act is about government transparency. We know this is not always easy, but we believe it is important. One way to make sure that you’re complying with the nature of that stature, more than simply the letter of the law, is to think of your role as an advocate for the requestor by cooperating with them to try to understand what information they are looking for and doing the work to help fulfill the request. We know not everyone is a FOIA expert, and they may make a request that is not quite clear in scope or directive. We recommend whenever you encounter an unclear request to reach out directly to the requester, using plain language, and try to understand as best as you can exactly what they are looking for. This can help focus your work, foster good will with the requestor and help to avoid litigation or disputes later on.
Every agency, whether required to by law or not, should define and publish a “foreseeable harm” standard that is specific to their agency to ensure both openness and protection of information that could be harmful if improperly released. What we mean by this is clearly identify the types of materials that would be harmful to release to the public that your staff can refer to when they receive a request. A well-defined policy makes it easier for your staff to make informed decisions regarding disclosure while working with the public. When filling a request, be sure to confirm that requested documents that are classified continue to be properly classified, rather than assuming their status has not changed. Lastly, releasing documents to the requestors as they become available rather than waiting until the entire request is filled can help ease the mind of the requestor and show that your agency is working on their request.
Clear Fee Structure
Processing fees is a big part of FOIA processing which can be simplified by implementing a few best practices. First, agencies should provide costs estimates as soon as possible after receiving and reviewing a request. Having a defined pricing structure clearly listed on your website can help mitigate back and forth between the requestor and agency as well. Secondly, each agency should apply a minimum fee for small requests. One federal agency does not charge for any request that they estimate to be less than $50. This makes it easy for their staff to process less labor intensive requests more quickly. Finally, agency staff should be empowered to waive fees above and beyond their outlined policies. There may be a time when a staff member assesses that waiving a fee may be a more efficient means to accommodating the requester and avoiding a dispute. Providing flexibility for your staff to make that call in certain situations can help them manage a situation before it escalates.
Hopefully these tips will be useful for your agency in efficiently managing the FOIA process. For more information on how Intranet Quorum can help you improve public relations and service fulfillment at your agency, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 6, 2018
FedRAMP, or the US Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services. Through FedRAMP, federal agencies can work with an approved cloud computing service provider with complete confidence that their data is secured according to a stringent set of cybersecurity safeguards. This is critical in the digital age as some of the nation’s largest companies have succumbed to phishing scams and data breaches. It is imperative that the government, across its many agencies, stays vigilant in ensuring the safety and security of their mission-critical data and sensitive information.
When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise. Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments. When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe.
IQ is the CRM solution designed specifically for government organizations. It’s flexible enough to handle the complex and unique processes of robust government agencies and available on a FedRAMP approved cloud platform to ensure the utmost in security standards and regulatory compliance. When you choose IQ, your government agency benefits from the security, flexibility, and reliability of a CRM provider invested in helping you carry out the mission of your government organization.
IQ is available on a FedRAMPed CSP uniquely positioned as a highly secure option for organizations operating at every level of classified status.
IQ is highly configurable and designed to navigate complex workflows. We work with 100+ government agencies to help simplify and automate even the most involved business processes.
When you choose IQ, you will receive a Project Manager, an Information Technology Consultant, an Engineer, and a Trainer to help you install and tailor IQ to fit your unique organizational priorities, and to guide you along the process of getting set up.
Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer government agencies IQ, our industry leading CRM solution, available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform. IQ can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K. To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have.
Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!
February 16, 2018
After the 2016 election, many political scientists turned their attention to the ways social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are impacting and evolving political discourse in the US. And while Facebook has been around for a long time, its use as a conduit for the spread of political information feels much newer. Facebook, which started out as a social network to help college students meet and connect, has grown into a platform for over 2 billion people, companies, and brands around the world to reach each other in ways people could hardly imagine just 15 years ago.
But is this phenomenon really new? Or is it just new to our democracy? Much research has been published on the effects of social media on governments in other parts of the world. The Arab uprisings, which began with the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, have been repeatedly cited as evidence of the destabilizing effects social media can have on longstanding regimes. Most Western talking heads pointed to social media with pride while examining its role in tumbling governments in other parts of the world. However, now that the focus has shifted to the US and we are beginning to see exactly how powerful and disruptive social media can be to the usual order of politics, suddenly there is a sense that we may have created a monster that even we cannot control.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Facebook may in fact be contributing to increased polarization on both sides of the aisle. Pew reported that 25% of social media users follow government officials or political candidates online, and that Facebook is the main social media site most Americans go to for news. Pew analyzed data from January 2015 to July 2017, and found that of the news articles shared by Members of Congress on Facebook nearly half (48%) were to outlets predominantly linked to by members of just one party – and 5% of those news links pointed to outlets that were exclusively shared by members on only one side of the political divide. Additionally, they found that the more partisan the news source was that the Member of Congress linked to, the more likely it was to be shared among Facebook users – meaning the most partisan stories had the farthest reach.
In analyzing this data, it’s no surprise that many have been feeling a rise in political tensions in the US relative to the past few decades. But the heightened tension online has not escaped those in Silicon Valley. Facebook has faced intense scrutiny over its role in spreading “fake news” with executives even being asked to testify before Members of Congress about vetting practices of political advertisers. In response to growing concerns by Congress and the public, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some surprising changes to its News Feed algorithms, changes that he said in a Facebook post, “should encourage meaningful interactions between people” by making public content like posts from businesses, brands, and the media less visible to Facebook users. He also conceded that he expected time spent using Facebook to decrease among users as a result. Advertisers and media outlets alike have decried the change, arguing that it will hurt American democracy and advertisers’ revenues. But the true impact of the imposed changes remains to be seen.
What do you think about the role of social media in politics? Has your office faced challenges adapting to the age of social media? For tips on using social media to connect with younger demographics, check out our best practice tips here.